So I figure this will go about as well as my mentioning Lords of Gossamer and Shadow as far as people having any notion what I'm talking about, but what the heck. The main difference being I'd actually like to run this, not play.
Particularly I'd like to play around with the suggestion from the player's guide that novas existed all throughout history and are the source of various myths, gods, etc. I actually have a big ol developed setting around the idea that I ran before in the terrifying real world for a few years until it petered out, and would be interested in trying to make use of it again.
In rough, pending interest for more detail, the central thematic is Aberrant's "what would you do with the power of a god" with "and everyone around you is telling you that you are one" tacked onto it, in an ancient Earth where novas have grouped up and created whole societies and so forth.
edit: well, people expressed interest to my big ol shock, so, some actual setting/recruitment/pitch material.
As far as setting, this is the pretty much bronze ageish ancient world (though this is a world, even in real history, of shocking advancement, the Minoans had flush toilets, many societies had very complex math, all sorts of things we still can’t do today or figure out how they were done were going on. Now magnify that to the level things would be at with novas around to develop things wayyy further). Keep that in mind as to how your character would react to things, think about the causes of things, and so forth (for instance, only the most way out there fringe esoteric intellectuals have theories about channeling invisible etheric essence, and so forth, as far as anything resembling even remotely the idea of quantum). That said, this world is going to be far from historically accurate, there are after all superpowered novas bopping around. If there was a culture I found neat or interesting to toss in that’s not quite fitting the overall time period, I put it in.
Look, there’s thousands of years of historical distortion and a few decades of active history rewriting by the Aeon Society to console yourself with as to why Baal’s faction call themselves the Ensi and get away with it paradox free, for instance. Historical mishmash and future distortion and rewriting is actually a lil bit of an underlying thing of itself. That said, the Germanic peoples in their roots are maybe quite ancient and they maybe venerated something vaguely Woden shaped, so, in some cases I'm not really going "screw the historical rules I have GM authority" that hard. In other cases I super, super am though. There are, in a plot point sort of way maybe, going to be characters named in ways that their personalities do not quite jive with at all.
Anyway! Some actual setting material.
The chosen of the heavens walk the earth. Wielding mighty powers, or simply pure physical might, heroes, demigods and monsters change the face of the world they inhabit, as history and culture deform around them. These figures generally agree on “chosen” as a term for themselves, since something has to have empowered them, whether the gods beyond themselves, the force of destiny or their own indomitable will.
The story begins with a tale of 4 such chosen, mighty even amongst these scions of divinity. Of the August Personage of Jade and the Rani of Mohenjo Daro, we will leave be for a time, and focus instead on two brothers, Heracles and Minos. Each felt they were the sons of Zeus, and their might, wisdom, and wit lead all to believe the same. They walked the entire earth, sometimes together, sometimes apart, developing their abilities, speaking with and learning from other chosen, and observing cultures as they developed.
Minos became especially enamoured with the grandeur of Egypt, and with a grouping of chosen there calling themselves the Champions of Ra, who regaled him with tales of their victory against Apophis the Corrupter and his dark son Set, banishing them from the very firmament of reality.
His journeys drawing near to an end, he reached particular philosophical conclusions on the chosen, himself, and the world. He felt that the chosen were indeed gods and thusly inherited a certain responsibility to humanity with their great power, that they were obligated to create a perfect world for those that would worship them, in order to be worthy as gods, and simply as sentient beings. Gathering about himself both chosen and mortals of great wisdom and erudition, he crafted a culture and moral code that took heavily from Egypt, and from the best of every culture he had encountered and then proceeded to attempt to create this perfect world for man, under the aegis of these laws and beliefs. Powerful, charismatic and inspiring, Minos would convince many chosen and humans alike to join him in suborning themselves to what would be called the Theran Compact for the glorious capital that rested on the island of Thera itself.
Heracles in the meantime, had not been idle. Heracles had become enamoured with Heracles. That is to say, with furthering his own unique power and development as a god, at seeking personal enlightenment. With the world at best a proving ground to challenge and grow against, and at worst a total irrelevancy. He had also sired a line of powerful children, who had risen to become god-kings of various Mycenean city states. He and his children viewed Minos’ goals and philosophy as patently ridiculous. How can mortals create a moral code that could bind gods when they are so beneath the understanding and breadth of existence of gods? Why should any god have to enslave himself to a foreign morality that is in truth only enforced by the vast personal power of Minos himself? If a god is truly a god, then he should yet be free to decide how to act on his divinity himself and not simply by virtue of being chosen, have to have that synonymous with slave, with Minos’ demands of propriety.
These philosophies went from mutually exclusive, to outright antagonistic, to open war, with Minos regretfully slaying his brother in battle. His children and their followers were driven out in the wake of the ever expanding compact, taking for themselves the name Heraclidae to remember their progenitor and his beliefs.
With many tribes, cities and nations joining willingly, and certain horrifically destructive empires (such as Assyria) being subsumed by force, the compact continued to grow, as chosen after chosen and human after human signed onto it. Before long they controlled much of what would one day be called the Levant, the fertile crescent, Egypt, Asia Minor, and the majority of territory around the Aegean, expanding besides into North Africa and the Balkans. The many groups opposed to Thera found themselves weakened and failing, until in part desperation, in part due to the leadership skills of the sons of Heracles, they united as one under the banner of the Heraclidae, rising to dominate swaths of Western and Eastern Europe, the Russian steppe, and certain stretches of North Africa. These lands would be denigrated by the Therans as “the lawless” for the sometimes slapdash and far from cohered or unified rule the Heraclidae had over those territories. Great wars would now ensue on the borders of these two great powers whenever resources could be spared to wage them, with agitation and intrigue taking their place when they could not.
Of course, the chosen do not choke the world with their numbers and presence, and there are yet many independents ruling tribes as gods, wandering the earth as figures of legend or simply making a living out of the now seemingly endless war between the Theran Compact and the Heraclidae
So, basically, at the heart of this is, y'all pick a faction, and we go from there. There are, yes, Teragen-ish elements to the Heraclidae, and some Project Utopia elements to the Theran Compact, though they're not perfect analogues. There is a philosophical struggle at the heart of things all the same around the notion of just what being a god means, what it is to serve, and the place one defines in the world.
Speaking of notes on mentalities..General notes on mentality
Remember, this is the ancient world, and as comparatively modern as even Thera is, and as modern as Finn himself (see below) can think, they don’t think like we do, and their values orient differently. Try to remember that. For example, as I’ll get into, on the side of the Heraclidae, there are Achaians who hate the entire sect, regardless of faction, and are personally horrified by it, but are there because in the name of Achaian honour, when someone kills your blood kin, you are required to kill them. Things like honour, face, social, cultural and traditional taboos and laws, pure social intangibles that a modern, secular or even religious society might find ridiculous are driving forces behind whole wars. There’s a theory that floats around that everything Julius Caesar did, or certainly was a big psychological impact driving him, he did simply as a Roman acting under the guidelines of how one is supposed to defend and live up to one’s dignitas. Ma’at is a freaking huge deal in Thera as their big defining core, like Time (pronounced Thee-may) is to the Achaians, enech is to a Celt, and so on, and so forth. Family matters, your gods matter, your history, traditions and people, matter. This doesn’t mean they’re shiny pure and noble as a result, humans always do horrible things in the name of their ideologies, it just means there’s a different set of them driving and defining people than there is now.
That said, don’t force yourself to play pure alien style. They were human, and stuff is always common to, you know, the human experience. A Celt is just going to view what’s worth holding a grudge over far differently than, say, a Canadian (there are areas where the Celt will be shockingly more forgiving, and shockingly less).
And on gods, and being gods.. like I say, most if not everyone of this era thinks the chosen to be gods, or at least demigods (hence the name chosen, as in “chosen of the gods”), including the chosen themselves. Doesn’t mean other gods aren’t worshipped though, including by the chosen themselves. Ra’s a great big example. There is no Ra as chosen, but Ra is one of the most worshipped deities around. Unless you have a truly amazing reason, you think yourself some kind of divinity as well, and you should factor that into how you look at the world, and how it looks at you. Finn (again, see below) is seen for his views as something of a freaky lunatic in various crowds, and even the people he leads are moderately unsettled by his personal views.
The basic idea otherwise is that you all decide on what group to be part of, along with potential subfactions within it, and we go from there in a somewhat sandboxy, somewhat plot driven way. Faction and subfaction details: The Theran Compact
Peace. Prosperity. Advancement. Beauty.
These are all words synonymous with the greatest dominion on earth, mighty Thera. With such prestige cities as Ilium, Byzantium, Heliopolis, Ur, and the Theran capital itself, the compact is legendary well into the Jade empire itself. Called a compact and not an empire for that save for the most egregious of nations and peoples, all chosen and men have willingly entered the compact, willingly pledged themselves to one another, to a perfect world.
War, wide scale plague, famine are all freakishly rare events within the peace of Thera as advanced techniques of construction, medicine and agriculture ensuring lives of plenty for all. Great academies dominate cityscapes. Patrols by the great military body of Thera, the Rhadamanthine legions, keep the well maintained roads free of bandits, even as her fleets are the scourge of the pirate.
The chosen of Thera, if not simply citizens of the compact, fall into three main groups: The Venerated Seers, the scholars and philosophers of the compacts, ever working at new and interesting innovations in art, philosophy and science. More famously there are the champions and troubleshooters of the Rhadamanthine Order, protecting the compact from renegade chosen, engaging in general improvement projects and leading Theran efforts to ever expand their compact outwards to new peoples and nations, ever moving out to defend them against depredation and terror, to show them the benefits of Theran law, and to hold them to it when they act in tragic error. Many of Thera's chosen otherwise find their destinies outside of either organization, as envoys, as leaders of their own religions, as rulers of cities, as magnates of trade, as Speakers in the Theran Assembly, as artists and celebrants and explorers.
Subfactions and notes on the Theran Compact
Counting auxiliaries and chosen in training, the Rhadamanthines count some 50-70 chosen amongst their number. This is actually a lot if you think about it. Yes, nowhere near overall Heraclidan numbers, but there are other chosen in Thera serving as city champions, ruling nobles, members of the Venerated Seers, attached to the Rhadamanthine legions or even just living as Theran citizens and etc. that can be called up in war.
Lots of chosen want to join the Rhadamanthines, only a few get to, the screening is rather arduous, given that the end result basically makes you a roving over authority in Thera. And roving is the key word. Outside of Rhadamanthines who also double as city champions (more on that in a bit), they’re usually in motion throughout the Compact, doing circuit like patrols, exchanging shifts with those on border duty, leading troop detachments, training local militias or newly minted legionnaires, leading improvement projects (whether construction, crude terraforming, or helping newly joined compact members reach a Theran standard of living) resolving disputes, in conference with the Venerated Seers on the latest planned diplomatic effort and the like. Whether singly or in groups, the Rhadamanthines often function as itinerant magistrates throughout Thera acting on their own initiatives here and there, if not currently occupied with some directive from the Rhadamanthine leaders or the Theran Assembly itself.
When arriving in an area, they usually take time to contact the local Venerated Seer legate, city champion, or local authorities to get an idea of the local situation, though there will likely also be legionnaires around they can get reports from.
Some Rhadamanthines are particularly skilled in particular areas, and will often be left to them, but Ioannis Kymberion (see below) tries to make sure that everyone gets some experience in one area or another, even if only as escorts to the particular expert therein, in order to keep people well rounded and give them occasional perspective beyond themselves.
The Order have final authority over the legions and answer directly to the Theran Assembly, though structure within the Order is actually somewhat loose. Being a collection of elite champions already, it’s a little bit of a stretch to go “I’m more elite than you!”. That said, it is recognized that of the Order, Ioannis is their leader, and a group referred loosely to as the Companions of the Champion (detailed below), are the ranking figures just below him as far as ability to command their brethren.
It’s a heady thing to be a Rhadamanthine, as you are given land, title, and worship as one of the protector gods of the entire compact. Songs are written about you, artwork is made, children are named for you.. Still, the screenings ideally ensure there will be no more Baal style incidents as a result.
(Basically, it’s like Team Tomorrow fused with the Jedi Order of the Old Republic, with a lot of crap edited out.)
The other big prestige group. If slightly easier to get into, given the lack of requirement of being able to handle yourself in a fight and potentially lead soldiers into battle. Artists, scholars, philosophers, bureaucrats, social engineers and the occasional muttering prophet fill the ranks here. Outside of Seers on local tribune/regional bureaucrat coordinator duty, they tend to be based at the great Academy (all other academies tend to have names, the Seers’ place is simply The Academy) in the Theran capital, almost a miniature city into itself, where the occasional muffled explosion or odd energy warping into something.. else.. noise can be heard, but the people nearby have gotten used to it.
Seers do wander through the compact as a whole, working on art, architectural or scientific projects, on knowledge seeking journeys, or just to confer with scholars in other cities. They will occasionally do so in conjunction with the Rhadamanthines, answering, like them, to the Theran Assembly.
Ur Nammu is deferred to as their overall leader, and the bureaucratic divisions have a generally more cohered hierarchy, but other than that, outside of the occasional academic scuffle over funding, it’s basically a collection of iconoclast artists and scholars, and about as barely hierarchical as you might figure as a result. The Theran Assembly does hand them directives on research directions and other projects now and again of course, and Ur Nammu will handpick teams to work on those projects and appoint a temporary head for such, everyone afterwards being able to get back to previous focus once it’s done.
his is not a prestige group because, well, they don’t exist. Not in song, not in art, nowhere. They’re Xenos’ counterintelligence group against what is a disturbingly sophisticated Hercalidan spy network (the hand of Baal is largely suspected in this one). Not exactly black ops, because Xenos doesn’t indulge in things like assassination, they are a collection of spies, saboteurs, scouts, wanderers, merchants, commandos and bodyguards, chosen and not. Like a sort of ancient world Stormwatch Black. They also usually have “day jobs”, sometimes even as Rhadamanthines (who do know about the general existence of these people, and usually they have related scouting jobs in the Order proper).
They often jokingly refer to themselves as “the metal men” due to little metallic discs some of them will carry that let Xenos get in contact with them at extreme long distance.
It is said that while Xenos had to argue long and hard to get the mandate to establish this grouping, it is he and not Minos who gave them a directive that they are not to kill while on duty, save in self defense, or when otherwise acting against an enemy agent, as it were. Granted that last category can get.. broad.
The hierarchy of this group is very simple: Xenos activates you for a mission, you do it, and then you go back to your life. Of course sometimes the mission might be “watch this city for Heraclidan spies” and will thus take years…
Less simply, there is an overall cell structure for the mortal agents, all chosen answer directly to Xenos and can commandeer cells as need be, assuming they know where one is, as Xenos is fairly notorious for not disseminating that kind of information in case someone gets caught and mindwhacked. In many cases one of Xenos’ men, even a chosen, won’t know who another is until Xenos actually tells them.
Like I said, there are chosen in Thera not in either of the above groups. Very often they are the rulers of cities or influential nobility therein, or champions thereof. City champions, well, basically municipal defenders like from Aberrant, if worshipped as gods. Basically that.
Chosen that are simply Theran citizens (although “simply” is a hard word to apply to a chosen) might have a flock of worshippers whose well being they tend to (depending on the chosen and the flock, that can be a damned hefty responsibility), might work as independent performers, athletes or artists, might teach at or be enrolled in the various academies throughout the compact, might captain local militias, or quite often are wealthy merchant coster heads (or employed as the guards thereof) who travel through and out of the Compact. They might also serve as mentors and trainers to those chosen who have just come into their powers.
Chosen newly arrived to Thera or who have just come into their gifts therein might also spend a fair bit of time just exposing themselves to as much of Theran society to decide what sort of place they want in it, and are highly encouraged to do so.
Alright, I saw a subtitled version of Hero on DVD before the movie came out that translated the central philosophy tenet as “all under heaven” instead of “our land”. That’s a pretty good guide as far as it goes. Everything, as mentioned, has a place, everything has a role to play in the cosmic order, and in cosmic harmony.
Ma’at in Thera has been largely disassociated with the goddess and taken as concept, though it varies, especially in Egypt proper.
A not terrible webpage summary can be found here: http://www.touregypt.net/godsofegypt/maat2.htm
Basically.. Therans don’t believe in subjective morality, period. There is a universal way, a universal truth, a universal justice, a universal harmony, and a universal morality. There is a right, and a wrong on a fundamental level. They don’t necessarily assume they’re it, but they do feel that they are striving towards it more than any nation ever has, and hope that they live in its principles and will someday achieve them perfectly.
Even the merest farmer feels a pride and satisfaction in his work, it isn’t just farming, it’s playing his part in cosmic harmony. To be moral is to be in balance with the universe, to be amoral is to be out of balance with it.
To be perfectly in tune with Ma’at is viewed in Thera like achieving Nirvana, except that going off to meditate on a rock to do it would be seen as selfish and ditching your responsibility to cosmic order. You become perfectly in tune with Ma’at through service to Ma’at, through figuring out what your role in society is, and then striving to embody it. To serve others, serve Ma’at, and thereby truly serve your very soul.
Minos: What can be said about the great son of Zeus? There seem none that can approach his power amongst any of the chosen, none that can approach his divine beauty, his wisdom, his kindness, his justice. Thera is his gift to the world in his eyes, and a gift to which he gladly suborns himself. Believing that all Chosen carry the potential to be great and glorious gods in the service of man in his heart, it grieves him to ever find a chosen truly beyond hope, beyond redemption, beyond a chance to take part in something better and greater than themselves. The lord of the Theran compact could walk with a justifiable pride at his works, yet for him there is always more to do, more to accomplish.
The Champion of Ra, Ioannis Kymberion: Leader of both the Rhadamanthine Order and the Champions of Ra, he is the valiant shining sun of the compact, second only to Minos himself in power and prestige. Some find it odd that a Mycenean is the leader of an Egyptian order, yet all agree that his dedication, courage, battle acumen and poet’s soul are the bastion of the defense of Thera. When not at war he is a calm, gentle, even idly bemused at the world sort of fellow, a demeanor that often initially stuns those first meeting him off duty. Still, There is no finer sight to a Theran citizen, nor more terrifying to her enemies than the Lion of the Dawn blazing brilliantly through the sky above.
Xenos, the Warden: A more quietly regarded figure for that usually, his efforts are in the background. It is he who maintains the central prison of Thera, and he who works as a liason between the Seers and Rhadamanthines, often flustered with a dizzying array of tasks from each. His features more curiously youthful than inhumanly perfect, he can often be seen traveling from one corner of the capital to the other, putting project after project into place.
Ur-Nammu, the great sage: Venerated Seer, amongst Venerated Seers, the great Ur Nammu built cities out of wilderness, wielded tribes into nations, turned shamans into scholars. His city yet bears his name. Many written languages yet bear his deftly shaping touch. It was seen as one of Minos’ greatest of his early victories that he convinced the great civilizer to place his name under the Theran banner.
Orestes and Electra: Rhadamanthines, and twin siblings, who had fled to Thera after leading an unsuccessful rebellion against their father Agamemon’s tyranny in Heraclidan territory. Though they slew their father, the resounding, screaming fury from every core Herclidae related to him was more than they could stand against, surviving to flee into the Compact an accomplishment in and of itself. Orestes for his part wields the physical might and legendary warrior skill common in part to all chosen of the blood of Heracles and the Achaian princes coupled with divine grace and beauty. Electra is somewhat less physically potent, though she compensates for this with a disturbing control over fire, to the point of flying along on jets of flame. Each have taken to the Compact with a fierce and unrelenting zeal and are often soldiers along its borders, especially against their former kin, for whom no love is lost, and quarter is neither asked nor given. They are very much gripped in Achaian passion, but it is a passion they channel in the name of the Compact and her people.
Neoptolemus: King of New Ilium, having fought on the side of the Heraclidans in the sack of Ilium and turned against his kin at horror from their actions, making him perhaps the most universally reviled Chosen in all of Hercildan lands after Minos. An old and potent chosen, he views his reign as penance for his past and for the deeds of his father, Achilles. Ilium has thrived under his aegis, having proved himself princely both as ruler and as a warrior, though his people often wish he would smile just a bit more. While some say he has abandoned Achaian honour in the name of Ma’at, he maintains he acts in it truly, and while those who seek kin vengeance may do so, as a king, he will be bound to defend his people to the very death.
Toth: one of the Companions of the Champion, the Venerated Seers often grumble at the loss of Toth to the Rhadamanthines, not simply for his peerless genius, but for his mystical command over the very forces of reality itself, as befitting a god of magic. Space, time, and matter are all Toth’s to manipulate and control, often to devastating and terrifying efficacy on the field of battle. Toth himself, for all his might, seems a very reserved and dignified fellow, his humour wry and academic, his only vibrant displays of emotion around his many wives and children.
Eidolon: another of the Companions, devastatingly beautiful, and a mentalist and teleknietic of near overwhelming capacity, somewhat even to herself at that. In part she associates with the Rhadamanthines as they contain the few chosen mentally resilient enough to have their thoughts be their own around her, and thus give her a blessed respite from constantly knowing the minds of all around her. She does her best to keep the Order in constant contact, and safety at that. What would she do without the few she can call her closest friends?
Graven: another still of the Companions, Graven, quite simply, is a stone giant who grows a massive stone war maul from his body before fights, using it to sweep battlefields clean. Enemies often underestimate Graven’s intelligence, which is just as he prefers it. In truth, of the companions outside of Ioannis, he is the most regular commander of the legions. Outside of battle, Graven is nearly the archetype of the gentle giant, with a fondness for acting as a storyteller to children, who delight as he acts out his tales with moving earthen statues he grows out from the ground.
Lir: last of the Companions, Lir is a Celtic god of storms and thunder who cheerfully admits to anyone who asks that Ioannis defeated him in battle, and as terms Lir is bound to serve as his bondsman. The Champion of Ra, if in earshot, will often shake his head and comment that that was centuries ago and that Lir is free to leave at any time he wants, but Lir will firmly maintain there was no time limit set, and that would be dishounourable. Brash, bold, joking and loud, Lir could call down heaven’s fury upon a foe, but that would be leagues less satisfying than pounding them into unconsciousness with his fists.
The Lioness of Byzantium: the newest and youngest of the Rhadamanthines, at 16, the Lioness of Byzantium is also the champion defender of her city. Able to shapeshift into the form of a supernaturally potent lion, and a potent hybrid warform inbetween, her powers are yet developing still. Her unflagging youthful enthusiasm makes her beloved of the entire Order, and Thera itself, even if it occasionally runs full steam into /over/ enthusiasm now and again, though some claim that to be yet more endearing. She is of course a potent warrior regardless, undergoing training from the Champion of Ra himself.
Anubis: Leader of the Champions of Ra after Ioannis, high priest of such (Ra that is) and defender of Egypt entire, this death god is an enigma. Possessed of what he himself feels is a dashingly sarcastic sense of humour (opinions vary), his power over the endings of things (what others might call “entropy”), marks his station in the lands of Khem. Said to have been found wandering the deserts centuries ago, muttering a single word over and over that translated as “death”, his features are of an oddly indeterminate ethnicity, as is his accent.
Ushas: a goddess of light and beauty from the east, who traveled to Thera from stories of its wonders and became enchanted by them, devoting her existence to beautifying them further still, whether in grand celebrations and festivals in their honour, or breathtaking works of art from her own hand. Ushas seems to travel in one, endless party constantly swirling about her person, yet the luxury of it is deceptive, for unlike, say, the orgies of Mithras’ city, she leaves her celebrants invigorated and inspired for the experience.
Mammon: One of Thera’s chief merchants, whose name in this era, ironically, is synonymous with fair and honest dealings, of wealth used for a constructive purpose. Master of multiple trading costers and a large merchant fleet, Mammon sponsors exploration of new trade routes, and trips to new lands, often deigning to accompany such in his own person, though his own gifts lie largely in advanced business acumen. Often seeking council with Minos and various Venerated Seers over various projects and theories of his.
Think archaic clockpunk Troy with an occasional Egyptian flavouring. Did you ever see Reign the Conqueror? A bit like that, but perhaps less everyone wearing thongs. More specifically.. Thera’s most wide scale advancements tend to most specifically be in metallurgy, clockworks (for lack of a better term), architecture, city planning, medicine and agriculture. Theran cities have running water, flush toilets and sewer systems. Some few Theran cities have actual clock towers. Forging techniques and the chemical (and even, alchemical) advancements that have been pioneered result in metals vastly more resilient and in many cases lightweight than would be otherwise normally capable to produce, which also helps with the clockwork bit, there’s thus a fairly extensive use of metals, as gears and cogs in super-refined and nearly automated giant mills for instance. Some say the fairly extensive use of metal also comes from Xenos the Warden’s ability to extend his senses through it and thus watch any part of the compact from anywhere he might be.. but that’s idle rumour. There are weapons that even strong chosen can use without breaking them, and the bronze alloy breastplates and greaves of the Rhadamanthine legions are renowned for both their durability, and their relative lack of weight and hindrance on the wearer (Thera doesn’t use steel, no, Thera uses some kind of bronze super alloy).
That said, all those clockworks are not always too visible, as Thera has a strong fondness for white limestone and marble. Theran cities practically gleam, and while very methodically laid out in districts around a central raised acropolis, there is always care taken to make sure there are vast spaces for public forums, colonnades of statues and other artworks, and public parks, fountains and pools. There is always a huge amphitheater for the public to gather in for citywide performances and athletic displays (bull jumping/dancing is a pretty darn popular sport), being addressed by the local rulers or the like. The streets themselves are often tiled. The architectural style is a sort of hybrid of classical Greece, the Minoan civilization, and various light ancient Egyptian touches (so, lots of ornate columns, bas reliefs, intricate, brilliantly colourful mosaics, etc.). The one exception to this being Egypt. Egypt, or Khem, still largely looks like ancient Egypt, being seen as some kind of spiritual/religious homeland to the entire Compact, no one wants to change it overly as far as style. The regional capital of Heliopolis does look entirely like a Theran city though.
Medically, with medical academies, advanced herbal concoctions, surgical techniques, and just generally cleaner living (sanitation is fairly developed, and hygiene is encouraged), disease rates are much lower, as is the infant mortality rate. It’s not like there’s, say, neurosurgery or anything like that (though certain very rare and really, really, really smart, dextrous, superperceptive members of the Venerated Seers may be able to do the equivalent), but dying of a cold is pretty rare in Theran cities. Actually, if you look at it, surgical techniques in some ways weren’t all that relatively shabby in some places, I’m often just magnifying what was already there.
Theran villages tend more to look like actual villages (though with often some concealed community amenities across the village as a whole), but are very often just basically communities that grow up around farmer’s markets, and given the well maintained quality of the Theran roads, are usually within decent distance of one of the Theran cities. And even the villages tend to be somewhat built up (the central village meeting hall will likely be something typical of a Theran city with all the amenities for instance).
The upper end of Theran advancement, outside of chosen “enchantments” (i.e. nova super science), include things like heliograph communication posts, Da Vinci style platform launched gliders that are used by the military and for important communication that a flying chosen isn’t available for, and gigantic clockwork walkers that you point in the direction of an army, set off the electric or chemical charge to get the gears going (or release the binders holding tensed gears in place), and watch it stomp and thresh.
Theran military tech.. the armies use legion formation and organization, with missile units consisting of crossbowmen with ornate, multiple gear and pulley powered bows (reload rate’s a bitch, but the damage potential’s quite nice, the usual formation of a crossbow unit is crossbowmen with attendants to do the reloading and keep them in loaded bows). Siege weaponry wouldn’t be out of place in the high middle ages, with use of things beyond that like greek fire. Thera tends to rely more on infantry than cavalry tactics, as if you need a shock charge that badly, well, there’s chosen. They largely use cavalry for the internal post/patrols along the roads. The border with the Heraclidans also sees the use of massive siege weapon topped towers supported by walkers. The navy is very trireme and trireme tender based, with a large scale of construction for flagships and the like.
As far as super science and the like, remember what I said, this isn’t like the modern era, not even a little. People are coming up with the ideas they’ve come up with, out of whole cloth. In the grand scheme of things, even math and literacy really aren’t all that old. There is no tradition of theory and experimentation to mold your thought processes and come up with stuff out of for many, many fields. The Venerated Seers are thus an exciting place to be as all kinds of wild for the time ideas get thought up and debated (“I bet we could use lightning bolts as power!” “You’re crazy! Now watch this blast of steam turn these gears! That’s the wave of the future!”). Some super science will be easier than other super science, basically, and you’ll want to take me through the thought and justification processes of how you’re making it work, and how you’re making it go. That said, feel free to use outlandish ones, it is super science after all. One of my favourites from the old campaign was this series of mirrors and chemical relays that you could control the direction of the walkers with. Theran innovations, when they happen, can be world shaking, but they’re not coming fast and furious, as it’s preferred for them to be mass socially applicable in some fashion, and to have been refined until they’re completely safe. There’s something of an emphasis on the practical and on refining or enhancing existing techniques, and lots of existing things work well in the practical (so how is it going to be making life better? And etc.)
(As a brief contrast The Heraclidae’s level of overall technological advancement is by comparison disorganized and slapdash, and in many ways comparatively poor, but every so often will blow the hell past Thera simply because of a mix of no research controls or uniform societal attitude to have to work around, and safety can kiss my ass. More human test subjects! More! The teleportation machine works by shoveling those puppies into that furnace! Shoveling all the puppies!)
Theran citizens typically rise around 6-7 AM, depending on their schedule, they then attend morning calisthenics, or bathe and take breakfast. By 8, they are either in classes in one of the various academies (education being mostly free and meritocratic- if you pass the entrance exams, you can go to the academy, with itinerant tutors ensuring a basic level of education among younger people to let them try) or in the workplace, wherever that might be, or tending to their households. Outside of a lunch hour, breaks and time to run errands as needed, tasks and classes are generally done by 5, 7 at the latest, with time after that being a citizen’s own. Late afternoons and evenings are spent going to restaurants, entertaining friends at home, taking strolls through the city, going to theaters or attending classes or intellectual debates. Thera does have a vibrant economy, and while everyone has a certain pleasant base standard of living, the wealthier do have more time and access to leisure and self education to have a better chance of getting into the great academies. It’s not a huge glaring disparity, but it’s there. There’s a lack of over grumbling about this as even the wealthiest spend days in fulfilling their responsibilities as any other, and thus leads us to..
Sadly no. You can be indolent if you want, but the result will be society as a whole frowning on you and finding you a massive jerk, going so far as to indulge in varying degrees of benign social pressure to outright shaming. Ma’at is taken to heart here as a defining and guiding principle. Everything has a place and role in the cosmic harmony of the universe, and if one is in that place, one is supposed to fulfill one’s responsibilities therein, from the great to the small. There is a strong work ethic in Thera, whose philosophy involves the belief that it is only in serving others that one truly serves oneself, from the gods on down. Whether you’re an artist beautifying the lives of your fellow citizens, a scholar innovating and challenging the growth of thought, or a farmer in the fields, everything and everyone and every act has a purpose. Can that get more than a little stifling to people sometimes? Well, yeah, but Thera is idyllic in an orderly sort of way, Thera isn’t perfect.
As far as governance, local will vary from region to region, with local monarchies and nobilities sometimes being the case, though sometimes with attendant assemblies of the people regardless, to full out classical Greek style democracies. The Venerated Seers both chosen and mortal handle the overall Compact bureaucracy, and usually have some kind of tribune style oversight representative in the big cities or thickly populated regions. Thera overall is governed by the great assembly in the Theran capital, with representatives sent from all over Thera to serve as delegates of their region or city therein. (Think like the Old Republic Senate, but not horrifically fucked up and bad.) If you’re wondering, Minos’ official title is Speaker for the Theran Assembly (though no one bothers with using it), as the delegate of the Theran capital.
To note, there is slavery, a non slavery based economy is too huge a jump in thought and culture even for Thera in this era. That said, slaves do have a variety of legal protections, and abusive owners tend to get their slaves taken away.
There’s not that much badness actually, buuuut.. there’s an undercurrent of arrogance and superiority to certain Therans and festers within them, whether human or chosen. It’s not commonplace at all, but it is there, and you can guess where it comes from. I mean, look at their lives? It’s a little hard not to get arrogant when you look at the rest of the world. That said, the people running the joint are mostly arrogance deficient, and many other Therans are as well.
And depending on how much you do sympathize with the Fianna (see below) or not, Thera does eat cultures. It just happens. There’s no thought police making it happen, or secret nova mind control, people just assimilate, they want to assimilate, who wouldn’t? It’s only been in the case of the huge cultures that built Thera (Egypt, Greece, some Sumerian touches, and the Minoans) that some synthesis occurred. Lots of far smaller groups and tribes just drifted away from their gods, values and culture to embrace Theran ones over time. On the one hand, sometimes this is completely a good thing, i.e. Assyria, sometimes it’s not. The general opinion in Thera is that it can be regrettable, but, overall, they’re not forcing anyone to do anything, or hurting anyone, or tricking anyone. They’ve found a better way, and they like to have the willing join them in living it. Cultural distinctiveness seems a small price to pay for Utopia, to a Theran.
Yes and no.
Well, first, let me observe something about Elliquiy for a minute. If they were, I kiiinda doubt that would really hamper anyone wanting to go another way instead. People love them some evil! With that said, you can't actually paint all of Thera's opposition with the evil brush as a whole, as much as the Therans themselves might.
Anyway. It comes down to this. How much does cultural identity matter to you? If a culture assimilates, even if willingly over time, have that people been destroyed as much as they would have if they were killed? Thera, in the setting's relative recent history, finished conquering and then assimilating Assyria as a generational effort. And as nasty as they were in the real world, you might imagine how bad they were with novas. So, no great loss, right? And it's not like Thera killed them all, just completely reorganized and recultured. Would you rather they killed them all?
But lots of tribes and nations that Thera has absorbed are not Assyria. They're just peoples who in the face of incredible grandeur on a scale impossible to reality otherwise, divine kindness on a scale impossible to reality otherwise, and, well, free health care, eventually abandoned everything about themselves and took hold of the hands welcoming them with an honest goodwill. If you value cultural identity, that's horrifying. Thera is a nightmare engine that just by existing and creating trade agreements that expose cultures to Thera, is turning the world into Thera. I mean, some barbarian horde wastes an area, survivors might be able to flee and rebuild their society somewhere. Theran assimilation will not even leave that option. And again, you can't even quite rail at them for brainwashing. They're not even forcing people who join Thera to stop teaching cultural values, or doing cultural things. There's no equivalent of the horrors that First Nations have been subjected to as far as children being kidnapped to schools and so forth. But, to go all real world history on you for a minute, there's a reason that the greatest fear the Jewish people have had sometimes is not extermination, but assimilation, and not being forcibly assimilated, just of in the midst of a larger, complex society, losing themselves in it, and depending on your view of history, it almost kinda sorta happened a few times.
It's like, to go all super nerd on you, the talk between Garak and Quark about how the Federation is insidious because ultimately you find yourself liking and thinking like them, except less as a joke, because the gods are amongst us on Earth and building crazypants supersocieties that could not otherwise possibly exist and thus influence people in ways well beyond the norm.
If you believe in the potential of cultures to grow and create legacies and influence in the world, then Thera is horrifying. Thera's counterarguement is of course is that why is your socio cultural whatever issues more important than a better world that all can share in, right now? Do the people living in misery appreciate their cultural integrity? Hey, go ask them. (the obvious counter argument is that the soul of man is as important as the body. The counterarguement to that is look at this vibrant society, who exactly in it have lost their souls? The counterarguement to that is, what vibrancy, you call this monoculture vibrancy? The counterarguement to that.. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.)
Basically, while they value and love humanity in all their races and sexualities and gender identities, who all hold place and authority in Thera at all its levels, Thera are unabashed cultural imperialists in this oddly benign sort of way (to the point that if they ever found a culture doing what Thera does but better? They'd arguably submit to them instead). And if that bugs you? Then Thera are not the good guys.
That said? Thera are indeed otherwise the greatest force for the advancement of the human condition in their world, physically, socially, however. There's no hidden dark side to Thera, to get that out of the way. It would make things a bit cheap otherwise. Lots of people have lots of reasons to oppose Thera, but those who oppose it, while also wanting to view themselves as champions of humanity in their own way, have to face a bit of an internal struggle for how they reconcile that with the actual good things Thera does. There isn't per se a correct answer to "should Thera be stopped".
Also on a minor level, if you value the balance of the natural world, well, good lord. Thera may find the assimilation thing mildly sad, but nature? They almost aggressively do not give a fuck about nature having some natural integrity to it. That's not to say they clearcut forests or something, or are mass industrialists. They deeply value parklands, and inspiring beauty, and fertile and healthy lands and all that kind of thing. But they are slowly experimenting with the idea of terraforming, of rearranging the weather by messing with land masses, and to them a forest is a place where someone can travel peacefully from one end to another, and if they run into a bear, the bear leaves them be. Animals are to be tamed and domesticated, or certainly at least conditioned to not be a danger to humanity.
Thera are humanocentric like whoa. Like whoa. A sampler platter of nature god type chosen very into nature as a value in itself end up being at least uncomfortable with Thera.
This is also not to say that people in Thera itself don't talk about these issues, debate these issues, view these things as issues, that kind of thing. Thera's not a monolith. But this is the overall cultural mindset they have and things they do.
One of the things Aberrant otherwise explored or tried to is "what kind of impact would godlike superhumans, godlike socially and mentally as well, actually have on how the world works", and the exploration of that here is "what if they were in a position to found an entire society and culture? Even if they were super nice about it because their guy directing it was a noble sort, how scary might that be to us as people? Or not scary?"
And there are issues besides of how much you value balances of self determination vs social order, put any stock in the idea of that serving others is the true way to serve yourself, all that sort of thing. This was mostly just to address "so who is good or not?" You as a player and certainly your characters may not give any kind of great good god damn about any of that.
Subfactions and Notes on the Heraclidae
Slavery. Hypocrisy. Stagnation. Narrow-mindedness.
These are the words the Heraclidae level in bitter accusation at the Therans. They make gods into slaves some decry. They turn the world into a lifeless, perfectly ordered machine. They destroy whole cultures and peoples so insidiously, that not until it is too late is such realized. They lock man into an artificial peace that prevents any real growth through conflict or necessity. They turn men into useless sheep who can do nothing for themselves anymore but live off the goodwill and caretaking of the chosen who are both their caretakers, and their slaves. They are murderers who killed family who refused to bow. The accusations and reasons for hate are near endless, but as to who holds to each one, well, it varies highly with the internal factions that have grouped under the overall Heraclidae banner. Disparate as they may be, they are united in one simple truth. If they stand alone against Thera, Thera will crush them all.
As far as their lands go, disparate factions make for disparate lands. There are often large stretches of lands and tribes where no chosen dominate or can even be found. And then there are instead great cities where they are thick on the ground, with every situation imaginable between those two extremes from dominated nomadic tribes, to clusters of small villages. To say that any one culture or lifestyle or quality of life is typical is thereby impossible. The meanest mud huts can be found on one end, and grandly impossible cities on another. The borders with Thera are of course tightly maintained despite such internal idiosyncrasy.
Those that simply call themselves Heraclidae are the closest to the original philosophy of Heracles and his lineage. Gods should be free to be Gods, however they themselves choose to express that. There is no one to bind the conduct of a god but that god herself. They work the hardest to keep the factions together, as each faction to them is a valid choice being made by gods on how they wish to live their lives, and should thus be protected from Theran eradication. Many being Achaian exiles and their descendants, they have no one territory, roving instead between all territories to ensure continued unity and morale. That said, they have the strongest control of anyone over the Phoenician traders of the Iberian, Italian and North African lands, their seafaring ways reminding homesick Heraclidae of, well, home. Their leader is the extremely charismatic Macaria the Firebrand.
This grouping that is not quite a grouping varies between those whose motives remain the philosophical, and those who are simply in this for long delayed clan or family revenge in the name of a dead spouse, sibling, cousin or parent. It is also a blanket grouping for non Achaian Chosen who oppose Thera, but feel no affinity (or even feel outright antipathy) to the other Heraclidan factions. They are generals and facilitators, envoys and recruiters, demagogues and quartermasters all at once. Heraclidan factions may outright bar one another from their territories now and then, but Macaria's followers are always given hospitality, even if grudgingly.
There is the occasional snarking about how the clutch most motivated by passionate vendetta are the ones constantly exhorting the other factions to rise above their petty feuds and dislikes, but with all the core Heraclidan hatreds focused completely outwards, it frees them to be able to work on internal issues without animus. Beyond that, there's an understanding that it is usually best to not start problems with those actually of Achaian blood. You kill one, every single other that then shared even a scrap of his blood will come howling for you.
Viewed by some as the most reluctant of the Heraclidae. Their view is simple, relating to each tribe or nation a member of the Fianna lives among. Their people have the right to their cultural sovereignty. To believe their own beliefs, follow their own codes of law, wage war as they see fit, live as they see fit. Minos and his ilk destroy whole civilizations or reduce them to fading insignificance, they have simply found a way to do it without a lifting a blade. Minos lures in whole nations with will sapping comforts, then robs them of their individuality and vitality. This must be stopped. This will be stopped. They call themselves the Fianna in the name of the man who most exemplifies their beliefs, Finn, guardian of Eire. The Fianna are dominant in Eire, in other proto-Celtic lands (though not, it should be noted, in what would correspond to Wales/Scotland/England, which most see as curious), and in the lands of the proto-Slav. Their domains range from the nomadic, to centered around great stone halls. Patriots, and in their own way, beings who love humanity as much as the Therans ever could (if in a very specific "I love my tribe. Your tribe could go kick rocks, shitbox, if we weren't all stuck in this together" sort of way), the Fianna fight for their people, to the last breath and drop of blood.
The faction provide a great deal of mortal manpower to the Heraclidae, if in a frustrating sort of way, since they do so generally as massed teeming tribal hordes resistant to command or training from any but their own gods and as a wild mix of chariots, cavalry, screaming spear and swordsmen and other eclectic mixes. Their technological sophistication is generally low, though, outside of the drugged, brainwashed, abused fanatics of the Ensi, the hosts of the Fianna show the strongest loyalty to their divine commanders.
Not all the Fianna Chosen are warriors, though most have some knack for it, making them a strong martial backbone to the Heraclidae overall (the Grendel are similarly broadly martial, but the Grendel are categorically incapable of functioning in that capacity alongside a mortal army.) A few tribes or nations are instead guided by gods of healing or nature, and lands like Finn's Eire are large enough to be able to support more than a single Chosen warlord of his or her immediate area. A similar perspective makes the Fianna fairly tightly knit, though having to supress inclinations towards broader tribal feudings amongst their mortal peoples creates some tension. A measure of such things are permitted, but not to the point of weakening the faction or causing too much hurt to their valued mortals. The world has hurt enough waiting for their very souls.
Standing outright as the rivals of the Fianna are the Ensi. The Therans have it part right, they believe. The Chosen are beholden by their power to create a glorious society that reshapes the world in their image. Where Thera gets it wrong is thinking the society they made gives humanity any significance at all. For the only significance a human, so utterly beneath a god, can have, is as the tool of that god’s direct will, whether as slave, sacrifice, or soldier. Gods must be Gods, and must hold dominion over all, building dominion that is a testament to their divine power and nature. The Ensi are dominated by one unimaginably powerful figure, Baal, god of storms, who chose the name for his faction after approving in near enrapt pleasure the proto-Norse of northern Europe, with their glorious cries and beliefs about blood for the blood god. This faction mostly makes their home in these lands, centered around the one great (some would argue, horrifying) city the Heraclidae have to rival the Theran capital itself. The city hewn from the earth by Baal’s will as a testament to his faction’s vision and his own godhood. The city whose climate has been permanently deformed to exiled Baal’s native Levant. The city of blood. The city of storms. The city of screams. The city of inexorable might. Awesome and terrible Gehinnom, Hell and Heaven on Earth all at once.
The Ensi are, depending on your perspective, a dark and horrific reflection and microcosm of Thera, centered around their own glorious capital (if one finds Thera horrifying already, well, the Ensi have their own ways to be horrifying). They have warriors, artists, scholars, sages, and, from a certain skewed perspective, paragons. They also have a vast slave populace (which is to say, all humans in Ensi land are slaves one way or another) broken down to serve as fodder, as sacrifice, as subjects, as experiments, as worshippers. Ensi raiders range out to take more slaves to ever sustain and increase that population. They come dangerously close at times to violating Fianna territory when they do (the Fianna would argue they have in fact violated their borders repeatedly).
There is a minor faction in a faction of the Ensi, the original Ensi, who grumble somewhat at Baal appropriating their identity, but then again, there really isn't anything like celebrating a successful war as fresh blood rains down as crimson warmth from the Gehinnom blood fountains. They don't grumble too hard.
The Ensi provide a great deal of the Heraclidae's technological sophistication, an intricate intelligence network and the sheer raw power of Baal himself.
The Fianna hate the Ensi for their stated goal of the enslavement of humanity. The Ensi simply find the Fianna pathetic. Both know the day the Therans are ever defeated is the day both fall immediately into vicious, merciless war to the knife.
There are those who fight for the right to be left entirely alone. Chosen are above men they say, and so chosen should not interact with men, the two groups have nothing in common, nothing to offer each other, and no basis to relate on. The only responsibility is not to build some foolish empire, but simply to come to an understand of what one is, and can yet be, that is the only fitting tribute to the enlightenment and depth of experience being chosen can bring. These aloof intellectuals have been named the Aos Si, for the worlds apart they build, hidden indeed sometimes in mounds, for their seeming as the withdrawn denizens of some mystical otherworld. They largely shrugged and accepted the name. Outside pursuing ways to further their own power and understanding from methods that range from meditation to battle they occasionally cluster in meetings around their leader, the impossibly beautiful Rhiannon. They hold no territory, being either wanderers, or scattered across isolated monasteries and holdfasts. They share in common towering intellects, bizarre and rare powers, and inhumanly perfect beauty. Oh, and a faint patronizing attitude to anyone that can’t converse on at least 5 different levels of meaning with them.
Arguably, they shouldn't be involved in the Heraclidan/Theran conflict at all, given their behaviours. When inclined to comment, they note that in a world become Thera, there will be no space, even in an otherworld, for their pursuits, no lands empty of human experience and contact to study and self define in, no allowance for Chosen to live as they do. Worse, no new perspectives from such few Chosen as they will induct into their number, for all Chosen will emerge with a Theran mindset, and Theran identity.
Their capacities and perspectives very much range into the highly esoteric and that is the greatest contribution they make to the Heraclidae, since their intellectual explorations are not really the kind that produce useful inventions. It is even something of a slight Heraclidae edge, the concentration of such curious capacity. The Aos Si are also some of the few that could be said to have some measurable insight into the Chosen state of being.
Having run into post limits, Imma have to continue this in this post here:https://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=233484.msg11493971#msg11493971
Player and general campaign notes:https://elliquiy.com/forums/index.php?topic=233484.msg11496807#msg11496807